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Dichroa Root (chang shan)

What is dichroa root? What is it used for?

The dichroa is a hardy type of shrub related to the hydrangea. It can reach a height of eight feet, and is relatively easy to grow. In the United States, it is often used as an ornamental plant because of the bright blue flowers and berries it produces.

It is sometimes referred to as the "blue sapphire" because of the flowers and berries. The root is used in herbal remedies. The roots are usually dug up in autumn, stripped of any loose fibrous material, then dried and cut into slices.

Dichroa root is associated with the Heart, Liver and Lung meridians, and has bitter, spicy, cold, and slightly toxic properties. It has been used for centuries to help treat malaria, often as part of a formula that includes tsaoko, anemarrhena and areca seed. Some research suggests it can also reduce inflammation and swelling.

How much dichroa root should I take?

The typical dosage of dichroa root is between 5 and 10 grams, taken with hot water as a decoction.

What forms of dichroa root are available?

Dried, sliced dichroa root can be found at some Asian markets. Some vendors also sell dichroa root powders, extracts, pills and capsules.

What can happen if I take too much dichroa root? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Because dichroa is slightly toxic, large doses may cause nausea and vomiting in patients with weak constitutions. It should be used with extreme caution, and should not be taken by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions associated with dichroa. As always, however, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking dichroa or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.


  • Choi BT, Lee JH, Ko WS, et al. Anti-inflammatory effects of aqueous extract from dichroa febrifuga root in rat liver. Acta Pharmacol Sin February 2003;24(2):127-32.
  • Hirai S, Kikuchi H, Kim HS, et al. Metabolites of febrifugine and its synthetic analogue by mouse liver S9 and their antimalarial activity against plasmodium malaria parasite. J Med Chem September 25, 2003;46(20):4351-9.
  • Kikuchi H, Tasaka H, Hirai S, et al. Potent antimalarial febrifugine analogues against the plasmodium malaria parasite. J Med Chem June 6, 2002;45(12):2563-70.
  • Murata K, Takano F, Fushiya S, et al. Enhancement of NO production in activated macrophages in vivo by an antimalarial crude drug, dichroa febrifuga. J Nat Prod June 26, 1998;61(6):729-33.
  • Takaya Y, Tasaka H, Chiba T, et al. New type of febrifugine analogues, bearing a quinolizidine moiety, show potent antimalarial activity against plasmodium malaria parasite. J Med Chem August 12, 1999;42(16):3163-6.
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